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Cell Phone Data Plans Explained

written by: luis84•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/25/2011

Read this guide to learn how to pick the correct cell phone data plan. Don't get slapped with expensive overage charges or getting caught without internet access. Choose the best data plan for your phone.

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    Cell phone data plans are not always what they appear to be. Many cell phone data plans are filled with fine print, limitations andCell Tower confusing details that can lead to a costly phone bill.

    There are several different types of cell phone data plan. Typically cell phone data plans are divided into several different types based on the types of users. Regular cell phones have their own data plans while smartphones typically require a different kind of cell phone data plan. Cell phone data plans are limited by the amount of data which can be transferred.

    Choosing the right cell phone data plan can greatly increase your mobile experience. A large or even unlimited allowance can be a must for smartphone users and some companies even require you to take a data plan with smartphones. Choosing the proper data plan can prevent hefty data charges and overage charges from your cell provider.

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    Standard Users

    Many users have basic cell phones or simple cell phones with email connectivity. Users who have phones with very basic connectivity do not usually need the more expensive cell phone data plans. Cell phone companies will occasionally try to sell you an "unlimited" plan because they are more expensive but they are not always necessary.

    Most cell phone companies offer a basic cell phone data plan. Basic cell phone data plans typically offer around 200 to 250 MB of data transfer capacity. Plans that offer 200MB of data transfer are more than enough for tasks such as email. The average email is around 400KB or less. At 400KB, a consumer would be able to download 524 emails with 200MB of data.

    If you only use your cell phone for the occasional mobile web page, email or other simple tasks then the basic data plan is ideal for you. Users who use their cellular devices for business purposes, have a smartphone or plan to tether their phone with the computer, will likely find the basic data plans to be far too limited.

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    Business Users

    Many companies offer special cell phone data plans for business users. These specialized plans are geared towards business users because of their increased amount of data transfer. Selecting a business plan is ideal if you transfer a lot of email or use a lot of other data related applications on your mobile device.

    Applications that use a lot of data transfer can include emails with attachments, company websites, certain types of navigation software such as Google Maps and other applications such as mobile VoIP. Business class cell phone data plans vary greatly by wireless operator and contacting your wireless operator is the best option when considering a business plan.

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    Smartphone Users

    Smartphone users are often required to have a cell phone data plan with their phone. Cellular companies typically require this because smartphones tend to use a lot more wireless data. Smartphones are capable of running applications which handle large emails, stream videos and music and even enable full web page navigation.

    Many companies offer a special plan just for BlackBerry users, however regular smartphone users will have to select their own data plan. In the case of a smartphone user it is often best to choose an "Unlimited" plan if the option is available. When there is no option such as an unlimited plan available, you should consult the company about high capacity data plans for smartphone users.

    Regular standard cell phone data plans may be suitable if you primarily use your smartphone when connected to Wi-Fi. Many users do not use their network connections to access the web. In the event that you typically have Wi-Fi access, choosing a standard data plan for basic email access can be both practical and cost effective. Users who tether their smartphones should also be wary of data costs and choose an unlimited or high capacity plan. Many wireless companies have special cell phone data plans for tethering.

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    Unlimited Plans

    Unlimited cell phone data plans are offered by most major mobile operators. Choosing an unlimited data plan can be more costly however in the end it may save money. Often consumers will purchase a smaller data plan assuming they will not use a large amount of data. When the first bill comes, they are surprised by the additional data charges.

    Additional data charges can be very costly and a truly unlimited data plan will prevent them from occurring. Unlimited data plans allow true freedom to smartphone users as they can download as much content as necessary without worrying about limits. Unlimited data plans do not usually cover using the phone as a modem or tethering.

    Many companies claim to offer unlimited cell phone data plans when they are in fact limited. The unlimited plans from many major top US competitors are actually branded as being unlimited but have a 2GB or 4GB monthly capacity. Always read the fine print when selecting an unlimited cell phone data plan to ensure it is truly unlimited. In the event that no truly unlimited data plan is available then choosing one of these plans may still be the best option.

    2GB of monthly data transfer will allow for approx. 5242 emails at 400KB each. About 204 videos if they are 10MB each and 409 song downloads if they come in at 5MB each.

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    Choosing Your Plan

    When choosing cell phone data plans you should always over-estimate. Purchase the plan that is slightly higher capacity then what you actually need. The cost to upgrade to the next plan is often much cheaper than the cost of the overage data charges you will incur if you surpass your data plan limit.

    Smartphone and BlackBerry users should always go for the unlimited plan when it is available. Regular cell phone users should consider purchasing a high-capacity plan if they download a lot of data in the form of mobile applications or ringtones. Many network providers charge for data transferred when downloading a ringtone. Downloading many different ringtones, wallpapers, themes and applications can be costly if you do not have a data plan.

    When choosing cell phone data plans remember to always read the fine print. Ask the wireless provider if you have any doubts or questions before purchasing a plan.






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